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Content and Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Elementary Science Teacher Educators:
Knowing our Students
Deborah C. Smith
Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48823, USA
In the last decade, studies documenting teachers' knowledge and its uses have contributed to our understanding of the complexity of teaching (e.g. Fennema, Franke, Carpenter, & Carey, 1993; Smith & Neale, 1991), In science, these studies have described both novice (e.g., Abell & Smith, 1994; Carlsen, 1993) and experienced (e,g" Hashweh, 1985; Lederman, 1992) teachers' knowledge and its uses in teaching, Studies of the kinds of content and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) (Shulman, 1986) that science teachers use for helping elementary students understand important scientific ideas have been of special interest to science teacher educators.
As a science teacher educator, I have used the PCK construct as both a map for the design of my senior science methods course (TE 401) and as a mirror within which to reflect on my work. In this article I first describe the current content of the course. Next, I consider the transformations of that content into pedagogical content knowledge that I find useful in my teaching (Abell, Magnusson, & Smith, 1996), Then, I provide examples of three kinds of pedagogical content knowledge about preservice elementary teachers that inform my planning and teaching with them, Finally, I suggest some reasons why building a common knowledge base about content and pedagogical content knowledge for science teacher education might be beneficial.
The Content of Elementary Science Teacher Education: TE 401
Describing pedagogical content knowledge of any kind presupposes a content that is the goal of the teaching and the focus of transformations into PCK. In the case provided here, the content of the methods course is the knowledge that preservice elementary teachers need for teaching elementary science, The learners for whom I am transforming that content are seniors in a five-year elementary teacher education program.
In identifying the content for my work with future teachers, I draw on several sources of knowledge about elementary science teaching. First, I think about the knowledge that has proven important and useful in my own science teaching with
This work was funded by a Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Spencer Foundation.
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children (Smith, 1999. Second, I remember the kinds of knowledge that I have seen experienced elementary teachers construct and use, in learning to teach science in ways that are compatible with the new reforms (e.g., as documented in Eberhart, Philhower, Sabatino, Smith & Waterhouse, 1990; Smith, Christensen, Henriksen, & Wesley, under review). Finally, I draw on my knowledge ofthe research on science teachers' knowledge and its relationships to students' learning in science (e.g., Anderson and Smith, 1987; Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer & Scott, 1994). Out of those knowledge bases, I have chosen several kinds of knowledge as the goals of my coursework with teacher education (TE) students.
Scientific Content Knowledge for Teaching Elementary Science
I want my students to construct conceptual understanding of substantive scientific ideas (Schwab, 1978), in at least one area of science during the course. For example, we might focus on theories accounting for the behavior of light, and how they have changed historically (McKenzie, 1988). For many of my students, this will be the first time they have deeply understood any scientific ideas. In addition, I want them to know about the form of important scientific ideas as well as knowledge of those ideas. I want students to know that understanding something important in science involves more than knowing the term or being able to give the definition. Rather, it usually involves the flexible use of theories and data to explain some interesting and important phenomena (D. Smith & C. Anderson, 1999).
In the process of coming to understand something well in science, I want my students to modify their ideas about the syntax of scientific work (Driver, Leach, Millar & Scott, 1996; Schwab, 1978), i.e., of ways that scientific knowledge is generated and collectively negotiated in a scientific community (e.g., Latour & Woolgar, 1986; Longino, 1990). If they believe that scientific knowledge is rigid and unchanging, there is little possibility that they will convey an image of dynamic and changing theories with children (D. Smith & Anderson, 1999; Songer and Linn, 1991).
Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teaching Elementary Science
I want students to construct useful pedagogical content knowledge of the content area that we will be teaching children in the field placements during the course. One kind of PCK involves knowing children and the ideas they bring to lessons, and the usual barriers they encounter in understanding conceptual content. Before our preservice students plan or teach, they read about children's usual naive ideas in the topic - for example, that shadows get pushed out of the front of your body by the sun (DeVries, 1986). They learn about state and national reform documents and standards (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993; National Research Council, 1996), and how to use them to inform their choices of developmentally appropriate science content. They prepare an interview to find out about those ideas, analyze what children have told them, and use that information to design lessons.
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 29
Another kind of PCK that I want students to develop is a beginning set of teaching strategies that facilitate children's learning. For example, they consider the teacher's role of posing discrepant events that provide puzzling evidence for children to consider (Anderson and Smith, 1987; Driver, et al., 1994). This kind of PCK includes knowledge of strategies for helping girls (e.g., Watts & Bentley, 1994), minorities and bilingual students (e.g., Rosebery, Warren & Conant, 1990), and special education students (e.g., Anderson and Fetters, 1993) engage and learn in science.
When students are designing curriculum activities and materials, I want them to begin to build a curriculum repertoire in the content area we are teaching. They consider the usefulness of objects like pancake turners that have holes in them and make surprising shadows (e.g., Eberhart, et al., 1990), and how the shadows with "holes" of light in them can provoke children'S thinking about where the light "goes through."
As part of students' work on the teacher's role in selecting and designing materials and activities, I also want them to construct an initial understanding of the role of representations, examples, and metaphors in facilitating children's understanding. For example, teachers make choices about ways to represent light, by using yellow ribbons on black paper or spaghetti stuck into clay (Smith, 1999). These representations have both benefits and potential dangers, and teachers need to be able to weigh both, in selecting them.
In constructing pedagogical content knowledge, I want students to have PCK not only of the substantive content, but also of the syntactical content. For example, we consider possible orientations that elementary teachers can take towards teaching science (Anderson & Smith, 1987), and how our own stances change over the course. Students observe videotapes of experienced science teachers and discuss which approach(es) they think a teacher is taking, e.g., an activities-based or content mastery approach.
If we take these goals as the content of elementary science teacher education, then what would a science teacher educator need to know about hislher students and their entering conceptions, to be effective in helping them make progress towards accomplished science teaching knowledge and practices? Next, I describe three kinds of PCK about preservice elementary teachers' entering conceptions and experiences that I have found useful in my work.
PCK for Science Teacher Educators
We know quite a lot about the kinds of content understandings that children bring to school science lessons (e.g, Driver, Guesne & Tiberghien, 1985) and are beginning to understand what they believe about how scientists work (e.g., Driver, et al., 1996). If we were planning to teach fifth grade children about photosynthesis, for example, we would have well-documented information about their usual naive ideas about sources of food for plants (Bell, 1985), and teaching strategies, curriculum materials, and representations that are effective in helping them modify those ideas and construct new ones (Roth, 1997).
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As elementary science teacher educators, we could take a similar view of our roles as teacher educators helping future teachers to construct knowledge for elementary science teaching (Wideen, Mayer-Smith & Moon, 1998). We might expect that knowing about (1) the conceptions that our students bring to the science methods classroom door, (2) strategies for teaching them, (3) curriculum materials and activities that are effective in helping them construct knowledge of children's naive ideas, and (4) representations of content that help them learn would be important for facilitating their growth as elementary science teachers. Magnusson (1996) has outlined a model of science teacher educators' pedagogical content knowledge that provides a map for researchers and instructors interested in these issues.
In this article, I focus on just one of those categories of science teacher educators' PCK (#1 above), what Shulman (1986, p. 9) has called " ... an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning of those most frequently taught topics and lessons." For example, what do preservice teachers believe about how scientists work or how learners come to understand scientific ideas? What do we know about their backgrounds in learning science? What do they bring in their conceptions of learning to teach science? How would knowledge of our students' entering beliefs and knowledge be helpful for science teacher educators?
In the following sections, I describe three kinds of knowledge about my students that inform both my views of what is difficult for them and my planning and teaching with them. Figure 1 provides an overview of the content of my elementary science methods course and the three forms of PCK for knowing preservice elementary teachers that I will discuss.
Context for the Study and Sources of Data
The work described here is part of a larger two-year study of preservice elementary teachers in a five-year teacher preparation program. My colleagues and I studied students in their senior year course (TE 401) on "teaching subject matter to diverse learners" and students who took a special physics course concurrently. We interviewed students before and after the courses, and copied students' work with their permission. Class sessions were also videotaped.
For the work reported here, I have chosen one student ~ Karen - to illustrate the kinds of knowledge and beliefs that many of the students brought with them to their course on learning to teach science. Karen had encountered many roadblocks in her own school learning, especially in science. She had persisted in becoming a learner despite those experiences. She was articulate about her struggles and her learning, and made considerable progress in constructing new knowledge and ways of thinking, over the semester. Excerpts from her journal and interviews are used
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 31
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DEBORAH C. SMITH
here to highlight the kinds of knowledge about preservice elementary teachers that I find useful and why they are important to my teaching and their learning.
Three Examples of Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Knowing Preservice Teachers
PCK for Knowing Students: Preservice Teachers' Backgrounds as Science Learners
Knowledge about my students' histories as science learners has become of increasing importance to me, because it has implications for several of the categories of knowledge that I want them to construct for their elementary science teaching (see Smith, Conway, & Levine-Rose, 1995). Early in the semester, I ask them to write an autobiography of their experiences in K-16 science classrooms. These autobiograpies enable me to know my students personally, respond privately to their writing, and look for patterns in their experiences. They reveal whether any students consider themselves to be "successful" students in science, and how many students lack confidence in their abilities to learn science, much less to teach science. They also serve as the focus of class discussions about why learners have a hard time understanding science and what teachers can do to help them learn with more success.
In these autobiographies, I find that students often do not remember science in elementary school. If they do, they remember reading from textbooks and answering questions. For example, Karen wrote:
Students would take turns reading each chapter out loud. Next, the teacher would write out the "important" facts we would be tested on, then we would copy them down in our notebooks. For the next day, we were expected to have studied the notes we took the day before and he! she would question us on them. The cycle would then repeat itself. (11111 96)
A few of them will have participated in science activities (what they refer to as "hands on"), and some of these will have been engaging and fun (an important criterion for my students). However, they typically will not be able to tell me what they learned in those activities. Many will have concluded what Karen did: "What I learned about science in elementary school is that you have to be smart in order to learn it" (1111196).
In their middle school or junior high school experiences, they report that science became harder, more demanding, and less comfortable for them. There was lots of memorizing terms and definitions, lectures and notetaking, tests and (usually) anxiety and failure. Karen talked about taking open book tests in middle school:
"The night before each test I would read over the chapter/notes I took waiting for the famous "click" to happen, but it never did. What was DNA and RNA, funky ladder thing with sugar, etc.?" (1/11196)
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 33
There will be a few students who "did experiments" in their science classes.
By this, I have found that TE students usually mean they followed directions to produce results that confirmed (or sometimes, didn't) what they had already been told. The exceptions to these stories of textbooks, lectures, and cookbook experiments are often stories about teachers with great personal charisma who were more engaging than others and who treated students with more kindness and support.
In high school and college science courses, the story is much the same. Science usually was boring, dry, lecture-driven, and consisted of memorizing and tests (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). If there were experiments, they were again procedures to be followed in order to get the "right answer." Karen describes her experience in a physics course on light and color this way:
After I sat through the first class, I thought to myself, I am never going to learn this material. The teacher presented the information we were supposed to learn similar (sic) to the way my middle school teachers did. All the professor would do is write notes on the board, hardly explaining them, and from this we were to copy them down, study them, and somehow learn the material. (1111196)
Students' own ideas were not the focus of any talk that went on, and student talk of any kind was rare (Lemke, 1990). The exceptions are, again, teachers who were charismatic and engaging, and who provided activities that were "hands on." Students are generally detailed and eloquent about what they didn't understand, but vague about anything that they did understand from these experiences. Karen speaks for many of my students, who feel that there was something missing in their science learning experiences:
Just because I did not do well in science during middle school does not mean [ hated it. [ was intrigued by it, how things worked, why things happened, what made what, but I was not given the opportunity to properly learn it. I always hoped a teacher would sit down with me and really explain the concepts to me instead of just having the class copy down notes and try to learn from them on your own. (1111196)
My uses of PCK about preservice teachers' backgrounds as science learners.
Why is this knowledge about my students important to me, as their teacher? First, I know - early in the semester - that what they bring to our classroom is not memories of "hot cognition" (Pintrich, Marx & Boyle, 1993) and success, but of cold sludge and failure. The cold sludge is the built up residue of many experiences in which they were bored, scared, confused and ashamed of their inability to do well in science. In addition, most of my TE students are young women and these experiences have been inextricably woven into their identities about who they are, whether they belong in scientific arenas, and what they can do. This has implications for their ability and willingness to see themselves as successful science teachers in the future, and for their abilities to see girls in their classes as potentially successful
DEBORAH C. SMITH
in science. Karen is eloquent in putting this into words:
A slow sick feeling crept from my toes to the roots of my hair when Dr. Smith informed the class we would be teaching a whole unit on shadows to a group of second graders. I'm dead, I thought to myself, the children are going to find out I know nothing about this subject and are going to eat me alive. (3/15/96)
Remember that Karen had already taken a college course on optics. This knowledge about my students is important because it provides me with a clearer picture of the problems we will face and their sources.
Second, knowledge about my students' experiences in science is important because it guides my planning. I know that we need to work on their images of what science learning is and can be, and of their images of themselves as learners of science, because they are going to have to re-construct and teach themselves science content for the rest of their teaching careers. We read Tobias' (1991) piece on what makes science hard and learn that many other people, including people with Ph.D.s, have a hard time understanding science in courses as they are traditionally taught. We watch the Private Universe videotapes (Schneps, 1989) and learn that the "best and brightest" at Harvard University can complete their education without understanding fundamental scientific ideas.
In one course, I cannot undo years of failure to learn the most basic of scientific ideas. If they are to understand those ideas well enough to teach them with children, they will need new confidence and new ways of teaching themselves science. So, I need to provide the environment for, and the encouragement for, learning to learn science in new ways (as well as for learning to teach science in ways they hadn't expected). For example, I engage students in scientific activities that are similar to those that I use with children, so that they can learn science in reform-minded ways. We read children's storybooks about shadows, and draw and write about how shadows get bigger. Students then test their ideas with materials and document their findings for later discussion.
Counter evidence about themselves as learners is important for many of my students. In our first class, Karen described in her journal how making shadows felt:
As soon as I got to the spot where I was working, I shined the flashlight on my pop can, moved it closer, then away, and observed what went on. A feeling of understanding and excitement filled my body as I witnessed the shadow growing larger when I moved the flashlight closer to the can. (//15/96)
I also need to work on my students' images of what science learning is and can be, because they will inevitably reproduce in their own future classrooms what has happened to them (even though they know they want to do something radically different), unless an alternative is available and viable for them (Posner, Strike, Hewson & Gertzog, 1982; Stofflet & Stoddardt, 1994). Karen talks about this in her
CONIENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONIENT KNOWLEDGE 35
self-assessment, at the end of our work:
Before I took this class I thought "real" science could only be learned through two ways: memorization of facts, and by carrying out step specific experiments in which every participant would get the same result ... I now have acquired information on how to format science lessons which allow children to take on active roles in each activity through the exploration of materials, making conjectures, testing conjectures, representing data, formatting group discussions, and doing journal entries. (3/15/96)
For many of my students, this kind of progress turns out to be more complicated than one might expect, because of the ideas they bring in another area- knowledge about science and scientific work. Next, I describe my students' views in that area.
PCK for Knowing Students: Preservice Teachers' Ideas about Science and Scientists at Work
I find that it is important for me to find out what my students think about scientists and their work (see Abell & Smith, 1994; Lederman, 1992; Smith, Conway & Levine-Rose, 1995). I often have them draw a scientist and describe what that person is doing and why he/she is doing it. I also ask them to write about what scientists do and how they know what they know. In pre-course interviews, I ask students to talk about what happens when scientists disagree and probe their ideas about the role of evidence and theories.
In general, students believe that scientists follow specific steps in the "scientific method" to "discover" new knowledge. The scientific method usually begins with observing some phenomenon, but students rarely give any explanation for why the scientist chose that phenomenon to observe or how she/he chose the methods to use. Students sometimes use words like "experimentation" in describing the scientific method, but when asked what that means, describe it as "trial and error." For example, Karen responds this way, in describing what she means by "experiment": " It could be anything, not just a lab setting. It could be cooking something you haven't done before, experimenting with chicken, you add and take away things" (118/96).
Students talk about scientists "making hypotheses" but, when probed, these usually turn out to mean predictions or guesses. They report that scientists collect "data" but often have vague ideas about how they decide what to collect and how, or how this might be influenced by theoretical frameworks.
The "discovery" of scientific knowledge that my students describe is usually something that scientists "see" directly in the observations or data, as if the knowledge is transmitted directly somehow to the scientist's brain (as children also
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think, see Carey & Smith, 1993; Driver et al., 1996). Students rarely mention disagreements of any kind among scientists. When asked about disagreements, they describe these as due to personal opinions of the scientists, not theoretical commitments. For example, when asked if scientists disgree and why, Karen says:
I'm sure it does (happen). They have different opinions, different ways people think, they see things different ways. Some people don't like new things or changes. Or, if her (the scientist's) work hasn 't been good in the past, people think this (her findings) is ajluke and don't believe her. (11 8196)
TE students usually believe that if scientists do disagree, they will then proceed by "trial and error" to gather more data, and eventually they will all "see" the same thing in the data. They often view the generation of scientific knowledge as taking place in a relatively short time frame, with few disagreements (because the data are obvious to anyone who sees them), and almost entirely in a rational, logical fashion.
My uses of PCK about preservice teachers' views of science and scientists.
Why is this knowledge about my students important to me? One reason is that their views of science and scientists turn out to be closely linked to their views of what science learning and teaching should look like. For them, knowing what and how to observe is unproblematic, scientific knowledge is obvious to anyone who makes the observations, and very little time or confusion is involved. Thus, their expectations for science learning - both for themselves and for children - are equally straightforward and unproblematic. While this sounds contradictory to students' own experiences of confusion in learning science, remember that most of their science learning experiences have been textbook and lecture based. Many are convinced that if they had just had "hands on" activities instead, they would have learned the science, because the materials and activities would have allowed them to "discover" the scientific concepts directly.
So, when we begin investigating a science topic ourselves, TE students are often impatient and frustrated when things aren't obvious or don't become clear quickly. Working on the same question/problem for more than one class period is taken as a sign that I am not "doing the right thing" as the teacher, or as a sign that they are, in fact, not capable of learning science. Karen's journal entry reveals her frustration after the TE students spent two class periods exploring how a shadow gets bigger and why:
... I feel the second day did not match up with the standards (TE studentgenerated criteriaforwhat makes learning science easier) ... even though (TE) students were given an opportunity to demonstrate and respond to things said, I believe the discussion got out of control and therefore did not allow me to gain knowledge from it ... By the end of class, I was so confused alII wanted Debbie to do is go up to the board and write the facts down we need to know about shadows (something I hatefor teachers to do, but I just wanted to know who was right). (1118196)
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 37
Encouraging students to persist, to talk about the evidence supporting or challenging different ideas, and to help each other is difficult, because they believe we are "wasting time" or "beating a dead horse." They sometimes comment that they do not see why this is important for them, in learning to teach science, in spite of their admitted confusion and lack of knowledge about science.
Knowing about my students' conceptions of scientific work informs my choices of how to spend our time. For example, students do a set of readings about scientists at work and then teach each other. They read excerpts from Cry of the Kalahari (Owens & Owens, 1984), and learn about scientists who care deeply about the lions they are studying, who lie on their bellies in the dust for hours, who work together as husband and wife and convey their emotions in their writing. They read Gruber's (1974) account of Charles Darwin's struggles to put together his ideas about evolution, the decades it took him to work them out and then make them public, his isolation from colleagues, and his fears about how his ideas would be received both by scientists and by the public. They read Gould's (1981) account of how racial and gender biases shaped the methods of measuring intelligence and filtered the interpretation of the data. They read excerpts from Keller's (1983) biography of Barbara McClintock and learn of the biases against women scientists and McClintock's passion for her work.
I choose these readings with a purpose in mind - that of providing images of scientists and scientific work that are different from those that my students usually bring with them. These stories reveal scientists who work for decades, not just days, to figure something out. They describe scientists who are confused and uncertain, and who are afraid of what others will think. In these stories, scientists don't get their new ideas or theories straightforwardly from observations; they sometimes don't know what the data mean and have to make up plausible stories to see if they fit the data (Latour & Woolgar, 1986). They show scientists who are fallible and sometimes not rational or logical in their ideas, methods, and interpretations. They portray scientists who are different in gender, race and culture. And they show the role of the larger community of colleagues within which scientists write, argue, and persuade each other (e.g., McKenzie's [1988} account of scientists' progress in conceptualizing light as a particle and as a wave).
When students read these stories about scientists and their work, they view their own work as learners of science in our classroom in a new way. They are more comfortable with being confused, more patient with themselves and their peers when things don't come easily. They decrease their anxious demands for me to "tell them the right answer." And when they figure out, for example, that the illustrations in a popular children's book are inaccurate in their depiction of how shadows change and why, they are victorious, confident, and exuberant. Karen reported:
After careful consideration of the illustrations in the book in addition to the experiments our group conducted in class, I am doubtful there is a light source which can produce shadows similar to those found in the book Dreams (Keats, 1992). When testing out different theories people
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came up with in our group ... no matter which way we positioned the light and the angle of it, the results would be off slightly. Our shadow could only get very close to the illustrations in the book ifwe moved our light source just a tiny bit closer and to the left each time she (the mouse in the story) fell to the ground. (1123196)
Students slowly begin to believe that they can be successful science learners and can teach themselves the science they will need to know in their careers as elementary teachers. They have learned firsthand that time and persistence - just as for scientists - generate understanding.
This has implications for their teaching, as well. In their teaching with children, they are less likely to back away from posing interesting but puzzling problems, out of fear that children will experience frustration and failure, as they themselves did in their earlier science experiences. Karen's critique of one of her lessons describes it this way:
1 formatted the lesson so the children would be the ones conducting the experiment and testing out their guesses, instead of me being the one to tell them if they were right or wrong. This way the children are involved in more authentic scientific research rather than the old "I tell you, you listen" routine. 1 also encouraged participation from everyone in the group in order to generate a discussion centered around what all the children think and not just on the child who figured out the "right" answers. (1122196)
Students are also more likely to persist in helping children work on solving the puzzles, over several days, instead of feeling obligated to "tell them the right answer" at the end of the first lesson. In commenting on one of her first small group lessons with second graders, Karen wrote:
Teaching children about light and shadows is harder than 1 originally thought. 1 believed it would be relatively easy for them to grasp the concept, "Light is blocked and that creates a shadow" ... they are just starting to mention some ideas about it, but none of them has mentioned specifically "blocked" yet. (2115196)
A week later, in describing what happened in one of her lessons, she wrote:
A child's thinking can be completely backwards on a subject. Then all of a sudden, you try to understand the child's thinking processes and ask them questions to clarify their answers to you. In the midst of giving his/ her answer, they give a correct explanation of the processes occurring. This happened to me this week. It helped me to see the importance of not only letting children explore/experiment, but also have him/her explain what they think is happening or taking place. (2122196)
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 39
There is a final set of knowledge and beliefs that I find useful to understand - students' ideas about what learning to teach science should involve and look like. I next describe what I have learned and how I use that knowledge in my teaching.
PCK for Knowing Students:
Preservice Teachers' Views of Learning to Teach Science
When my students walk through the methods classroom door, they already have ideas about what they and I ought to be doing in the next weeks. Again, these ideas are related to their ideas about what science is and what scientists do, and to their ideas about what science teaching and learning are about. But they seem to be related to broader conceptions about knowledge itself and how learners come to know something (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Anderson & Smith (1987) have discussed experienced elementary teachers' orientations to teaching science. I am finding that TE students bring related orientations to learning to teach science that are fairly predictable.
To get inside my students' heads and understand their views about learning to teach science, I ask them to draw a picture of and then write about an "ideal" science lesson, one in which everything is going well and they have all the supplies they need. In addition, I ask them to construct a CAT scan of an experienced elementary science teacher's head and write in all the kinds of knowledge they think they will need, in order to become one. Finally, I ask them to write about what they believe they will need from the course, and how they think they will best learn to become an elementary science teacher. Finding out what my TE students think about learning to teach science is always an eye-opening experience for me.
Most of my students enter my science methods classroom door believing that what they need is the opportunity to "learn by experience" or by " trial and error" or by "exposure." I think of this as the "discovery" orientation to learning to teach science. In my pre-course interview with Karen, for example, she thought it would be important for her to do science activities herself, and then do them with children. She wanted to be "doing things rather than having someone explain" in science activities. And her comments about her "ideal" science lesson and what children should be doing were also related:
Just like anything in life, I believe that in order to make sense of something, which is something you have never encountered or heard of before, to just read about it won 't make it clear, but by doing it, you are discovering the unknown in a way which makes those concepts clear. (1/13/96)
When students apply this to learning to teach science, they usually mean that my role as the instructor is to arrange for them to (1) be in classrooms as soon and as much as possible, so that they are "exposed" to science teaching, (2) plan and teach lessons for whole groups, so that they can practice by trial and error what "real" teachers do, and (3) learn by doing, either vicariously by watching experienced teachers or by teaching lessons themselves and "discovering"effective science
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teaching. They believe that it is obvious that "hands on discovery" is what is needed in science lessons, and that how to do this will be equally obvious, if they can get into a classroom and "just do it."
Sometimes students also bring an expectation that there are simple, obvious and accepted rules (Berliner, 1989) for elementary science teaching (much like the straightforward processes of the scientific method), and if they just follow them, they will know how to teach science. I think of this as the "processes" orientation to learning to teach science. It is often combined with a "content mastery" view in which students believe I will transmit the needed science content for all of kindergarten through sixth grade science, during the course. In this view, my role is to give students a list of strategies and a list of activities to be taught for each of the topics in the elementary science curriculum, and then arrange for them to follow these instructions, and practice them.
The problem is, what I have to offer in our time together is quite different from what they want, and this poses inevitable conflicts, as they become increasingly anxious that I'm not providing it. In fact, not only am I not providing what they wanted, but I'm actively trying to complicate their ideas about what science is, what science teaching and learning are all about, what it means to understand something, and how we ought to be spending our time together.
My uses ofPCK about preservice teachers' views of learning to teach science.
Why is it important for me to know about these orientations to learning to teach science that my students bring? First, knowing that there are similarities in their ideas about science, about science teaching and learning, and about learning to teach science helps me to think about the sequence of curriculum that I plan. For example, if I can shift students' conceptions of how scientists generate know ledge, sometimes I can create a question about how children might generate knowledge in science lessons. From there, I can ask about implications for how knowledge about learning to teach science might develop.
Sometimes I start our work with the readings about scientists and their work, in an attempt to broaden their views of knowledge construction first, before we move into thinking about teaching classroom science. Other times, I start with their own work at learning something in science in our methods classroom, in order to raise the usual frustrations and problems about the length of time and lack of clarity involved. Then I use those issues as the focus for discussions about students' assumptions about teaching and learning science. When we read about the scientists' work, they recognize many of the same issues that have come up for us, as learners of science and learners of science teaching.
Second, knowing about the expectations that my students bring helps me to be patient and persistent with them. I can plan for their ideas, instead of having them surprise me like hidden land mines. I know that ignoring these ideas or hoping they go away probably won't work. They will persist and become obstacles to our progress, unless I can arrange an environment and opportunity for discussing them and challenging them. I don't expect them to "get it" right away. I know that what I'm doing is quite different from what they expected, and that it's a big change for them to make progress enough to understand why we are doing what we are. I can
CON1ENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CON1ENT KNOWLEDGE 41
also acknowledge with them that it's uncomfortable and frustrating and confusing and frightening ~ and sometimes maddening! ~ not to "get what you paid for."
Third, knowledge of this sort helps me to recognize the underlying assumptions that are common in students' comments and questions, and to respond to the core beliefs and ideas, in addition to addressing the specifics. In that way, I can use classroom incidents at multiple levels, to emphasize common themes across our work as learners of science, as teachers of children, and as learners of teaching SCIence.
For example, when TE students are concerned that the children in the small groups they are teaching are not "getting it" after the first lesson, I can ask how long it took Darwin to "get it," or how long we took to figure out what was happening in our own work with light and shadows. Or, I can share my own comparable dilemmas and struggles in choosing activities and framing discussions in our course, when they don't "get it" immediately. I can model conscious decisionmaking, as their teacher, to provide more time and "cover" less, so that they, as learners of science teaching, are able to learn with understanding.
I have found my pedagogical content knowledge of (a) students' experiences as science learners, (b) their assumptions about scientists and their work, and (c) their ideas about what learning to teach science ought to involve, to be critical for our progress together. It helps me to predict problems and barriers, to plan to raise and provide time for discussing those issues, and to offer opportunities for students to build on what they bring and construct new knowledge that they will need as elementary science teachers. Many of my students have already experienced the shame and embarrassment of feeling unable to understand science. They are already committed to learning to teach science so that children in their classrooms do not experience those feelings. What they need are the knowledge and tools to enact that commitment.
I often think of my work as a science teacher educator as a kind of weaving that I am doing with students. What I know about my students' entering knowledge and beliefs influences the colors and patterns that I choose as starting places for our weaving. Sometimes I choose a pattern I've woven many times before, like the autobiographies of learning in science, because it has proven to be an important start for the weaving. It's a way to get students involved personally with the work; almost everyone engages and contributes something to that piece of the weaving.
Sometimes I re-work something I've tried before, like the readings about scientists ~ unraveling some of the usual pieces and weaving in new themes or new connections, e.g., the students' own work as learners of science in our classroom. This sometimes turns out to be too far to stretch the yarn. At other times, students may eagerly move back and forth between the two pieces and make the connections strong and vibrant.
Sometimes the sequences I choose are familiar ones, like the sequence: autobiography ~> learning science ourselves ~> reading about scientists. And
DEBORAH C. SMITH
sometimes I make mistakes in the choices and learn only later that another piece would have made more sense closer to the beginning of the weaving. For example, sometimes reading Raizen and Michelson's (1994) description of the qualities of effective elementary science teachers works well up front, sometimes it works well as an ending piece. More recently, I have used it as bookends for the course, both framing our work and serving to recapitulate what we've learned.
In the same way that we need more effective ways to find out what children bring to science lessons, we need to learn more about preservice teachers and what they bring to our science methods courses. In many ways, finding out what my students know and believe when they walk in the methods classroom door has complexified my life and my teaching. Sometimes, I regret asking, because what I learn means I will have to add, rearrange, modify or otherwise work harder in my planning and teaching. But it is precisely that knowledge of our students that will help us to make more effective choices about what to do and read and talk about, as we support their learning (with understanding) to teach science (with understanding) .
There are, of course, other kinds of knowledge about my students that are useful for my planning and teaching. Knowledge about the range of conceptual understanding of the scientific content that we will teach with children is important. When only one of twenty-four students can provide an explanation of photosynthesis, and most believe that plants obtain their food from the soil (as children do, Roth, 1997), this has important implications for what we do in preparing to teach children. Knowing ahead of time that students do not realize that children have naive ideas about most science topics and that they therefore have little inclination to assess children's knowledge before teaching, also shapes my choices. Their theories about the teacher's role in helping children learn science, or their ideas about what kinds of curriculum activities are most appropriate for different grade levels, are all helpful in planning my work with them. But the three kinds of PCK about preservice teacher' entering conceptions that I have chosen to discuss here are the ones that I have found to be the most difficult that we usually encounter along the way, and I have focused on them for that reason.
Implications for Other Aspects of Science Teacher Education
In this article, I have mapped one small piece of pedagogical content knowledge for elementary science teacher educators ~ knowing students' entering conceptions, experiences and beliefs, and the related problems they encounter in learning to teach elementary science. There are clearly other possible content maps and other pieces of the pedagogical content knowledge base that need to be explored.
Making explicit the knowledge bases for our professional expertise as elementary science teacher educators would advance our understanding of our work and our students' progress. In sharing and building on each others' content and pedagogical content knowledge, we could identify important gaps and areas for future research. For example, how do particular tasks engage our students in
CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE 43
developing knowledge about how to respond to children's naive ideas?
In thinking about the field of science education and how we can improve our collective knowledge, there are broader issues that arise. For example, as an elementary science teacher educator, I've been working to identify the kinds of PCK that I use with preservice elementary teachers. Similar questions arise about the PCK needed for working with practicing elementary teachers. In what ways is this knowledge different from that used for teaching preservice teachers, and in what ways might it be similar?
In terms of future science teacher educators, we might explore together how to arrange opportunities for graduate students to engage with the larger professional community of science teacher educators in exploring these questions and constructing knowledge in preparation for their roles as the next generation of elementary science teacher educators. I look forward to learning from both my students and my colleagues, as we develop our understanding of these questions.
This work was funded by a Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship. I am grateful to them for this support. Many thanks to Kara Suzuka and Angia Macomber who videotaped lessons, interviewed students, and most importantly shared their insights into my teaching and my students' learning during the project. My thanks also to Charles W. Anderson, who read earlier drafts, and to several anonymous reviewers, who helped me clarify the focus of my writing.
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